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rtblished pursuant to AN Act of THE GENERAL Assembly of virginia,
By WILLIAM WALLER HENING.
“The Lairs of a country are necessarily connected with every thing belonging to the people of it;
WE, P. V. Daniel, William F. Pendleton, William Robertson, and Wiiliam Selden, members of the executive council of Virginia, do hereby certi. fy that the laws contained in the first volume of HENING’s Statutes at Larre have been, by us, examined and compared with a copy as corrected by the certificate of the examiners heretofore appointed, from which they were taken, by William F. Pendleton and William Seiden, from page 1, to page 368 inclusive, by William F. Pendleton and William Robertson, from page 369 to page 428, inclusive, and by William F. Pendleton and Peter V. Dan. iel, from page 429, inclusive to the end, except from page 465 to page 472, inclusive, which were examined by Peter V. Daniel and William Selden, and we have found the pages respectively examined by us, truly and accurately printed except as to the following list of errata, to the number of twelve. Given under our hands, this 14th day of July, 1823. P. V. DANIEL. W. F. PENDLETON. W. ROBERTSON, W. SELDEN.
- o ERRATA.
Page 317, line 11 from top, strike out “L” after “3”
TO THE FIRST EDITION.
WHETHER I shall render an acceptable service to my native state in furnishing the only authentic materials for its early history, which have hitherto been published, and which display alike the virtue and vices, the wisdom and folly of our ancestors, I am at a loss to conjecture. Nations as well as individuals have their pride of ancestry; and poets and historians in all ages have delighted to gratify that harmless propensity. Homer has interwoven a few historical facts, with a strange mixture of Grecian mythology. His heroes were all allied to the Gods, and the celestial beings, in every conflict, had their feelings enlisted on the side of their respective descendants. He is the only historian of the Trojan war; and amidst the innumerable beauties of this immortal bard, we almost lose sight of the fictions with which his poem abounds. Virgil, in imitation of his great prototype, equally administered to the vanity of the Romans. It was not enough that they were the successors of Janus, of Saturn, of Jupiter, and a whole race of Latin kings, who were afterwards deified, and that their city was founded by Romulus, the son of the God Mars, but their passion for illustrious ancestors gave a ready admission to JEneas the Trojan, son of Anchises by the Goddess Venus, and ranked him as the sixth king of the Latins. Livy, one of the best of the Roman historians, introduces his work with those fabulous accounts, which the prejudices of education had induced the best informed of his countrymen to adopt.
stolen English historians have, with propriety, rejected the legendary tales with which the writings of their predecessors are filled; but the early histories of all the kingdoms of Europe, established after the dark ages, which succeeded the decline and fall of the Roman empire, contain little more than the traditions of their bards. Indeed, until we come to the laws of a nation, it is impossible to form a correct idea of its civil polity, or of the state of society:
“As every new law,” says a celebrated writer, “is made to remove some inconvenience the state was subject to before the making of it, and for which no other method of redress was effectual, the law itself is a standing, and the most authentic evidence we can require of the state of things previous to it.”a
#. colony of Virginia having been planted long after the revival of letters in Europe,b as well as the general introduction of the use of the press, it might have been expected that every thing relating to our early history would have been carefully preserved. But it is a melancholy truth, that though we have existed as a nation but little more than two hundred years, our public offices are destitute of official documents. It is to the pious care of individuals c only, that posterity will be indebted for those lasting monuments which perpetuate the oppressions of the kings of England, and the patient sufferings of the colonists. When we compare the extensive grant of territory contained in the charters of King James I. to the London Company,d with the narrow limits to which the colony of Virginia was afterwards reduced ; when we review the arbitrary conduct of that monarch in suspending the powers of the company, by proclamation, and the equally unjust proceedings of his son, Charles l. in taking the government into his own hands;e and when we contemplate the gradual but progressive encroachments of his successors, on the rights of the people, till resistance became indispensable, we shall cease to wonder that so few evidences of their turpitude have been suffered to remain. What was left undone by the predecessors of George III, was consummated during his reign. All the papers, except a few fragments deposited in the archives of the Council of State, and other public offices, within the reach of his myrmidons, were, with more than the savage barbarity of the Goths and Vandals, committed to the flames.
In the infancy of our legislation, the laws were few and simple. They related chiefly to the church government; to the culture of tobacco and other staple commodities; to defensive operations against the Indians, and such other subjects as would naturally en
a Priestley's lectures on history, vol. 1, pa. 149.
b The first charter of king James I. for two several colonies and plantations in Virginia, bears date the 10th of April, 1606 (see pa. 57;) and the first permanent settlement was made on the 26th of April, 1607 (see pa. 132.) All the public papers, in the early periods of the colony, are dated in such a “year of the plantation,” answering to the above date for its soundation,
c Thomas Jefferson, late President of the United States, has contributed more than any other individual to the preservation of our ancient laws. He very early employed himself in collecting them for the public use; and to his assistance the editor is chiefly indebted for the materials which compose the present work—Several other gentlemen have very obligingly aided the exertions of the editor; an acknowledgment of which is , made at the commencement of the acts of each session. # d Four hundred miles on the sea coast, and all that space westwardly to the Pacific ocean (see pa. 883) and all the islands lying within three hundred leagues of the coast of Virginia jo. pa. 100.)
e See Jefferson's Notes on Virginia, Query XIII, pa, 118, 123 of 1st edit. pa. 212, 218 of last edit,
gross the attention of the legislature, in a newly settled country.— The acts of each session (which existed only in manuscript) were promulgated, by being read to the people at the beginning of every monthly court, and by having copies deposited in the clerk's office for the inspection of all those who wished to consult them;f Besides, as every plantation or settlement was entitled to as many representatives as the inhabitants thought proper to elect.g. the meinbers, on their return home, could easily communicate to their neighbors the substance of the laws which had passed. It was not until the year 1733, that an edition of our laws was printed in Virginia. Purvis’s Collection, as it is generally called, was published in London, without date, and only with the initials of the printer's name, (T. J. for J. P.) but supposed to be between the years 1684 and 1687, it being dedicated to Lord Howard, governor of Virginia, who held that office during the above period: in 1722,h an Abridgement of the Laws of Virginia (ascribed to Beverley) was also published in London; and in 1728,h a second edition of the same work. The volumes of Purvis appear to have been bound up with blank leaves at the end, for the reception of subsequent MS. laws, and to have been distributed to the respective counties at different times; as some copies have more, and some less of those MS. acts transcribed into them. For many years after the publication of this book, it is referred to, by the printed laws:" but it is so grossly inaccurate, that but little use will be made of it in the present edition. On comparing it with two MSS. embracing the same period, and which are of undoubted authority and accuracy, it has been discovered that not only entire sentences, but whole acts are omitted ; besides innumerable typographical errors, which totally vary the sense. So much of the acts from which Purvis's collection was printed as contained the revisal of 1661-2, were transmitted to Sir William Berkeley, then in Eni. for the king's confirmation, after which he was requested to eliver them to the assignee of Henry Randolph, clerk of the assembly, who had the exclusive right of printing and vending the copies for ten years. The acts from 1661-2 to 1682, inclusive, where Purvis ends, were probably transmitted to London and incorporated in the volume, without any special sanction of the legislature. During the early periods of legislation in Virginia, it was the usu
f See act LXVIII. of 1631-2, pa. 177, and act LXI. of 1632, pa. 202.
g See pages 138, 147, 153, 177, where it will be observed that the representation was by plantations.
h. A copy of each is in possession of the editor; the former the property of Lenaeus Bolling, Esq. and the latter of William Wirt, Esq.
* This is a mistake. See preface to 2d Vol.
i See Vol.2, act 142 of March, 1661-2.